With the Grade 1 Boghall & Bathgate Caledonia, tenor drummer Fiona Morris of Kinross, Scotland, is used to being determined to beat the other bands in competition, but now she’s determined to win once and for all in a much more serious battle.
Last year the 25-year-old Morris was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, just after the World Pipe Band Championships, and she’s working to raise money for the Bone Cancer Research Trust through a Facebook page she started less than two weeks ago, already totalling more than £3,000 – way over her initial £500 target.
“I was an active 25-year-old out most weekends competing with my pipe band,” Morris said. “I had assumed an injury from my drum was causing the pain and swelling in my left knee after struggling my way through competing at the World Pipe Band Championships. I attended my General practitioner practice where the doctor also thought I had hurt my leg at the contest. However, we couldn’t have been more wrong. It took two months and three appointments with my doctor before we took the first step towards a proper diagnosis.”
After a routine blood test came up abnormal, a barrage of other tests – including a painful lumbar puncture – all verified that Fiona had osteosarcoma. She started chemotherapy almost immediately, making her weak, sick and frail. Due to the threat of infection, she wasn’t even allowed to attend band practices.
“But it wasn’t until my hair started to fall out that the fact I had cancer actually sunk in.”
An amputation of her leg seemed imminent. “The doctors had said I may lose my leg from this cancer and I was so devastated I may not be able to play in the band anymore. But I was prepared to do anything to save my life, if losing my leg would be the only option I would do it. Many times I have asked why, I don’t smoke, I don’t drink a lot, I’ve never done recreational drugs, but cancer has no boundaries.”
In March she met again with her surgeon to discuss options, and she was uplifted to hear him recommend a procedure in which the tumour and the surrounding bone would be removed and replaced with a titanium rod.
“This gave me a real boost I was still determined to compete in the band and I wasn’t prepared to let cancer rob me of this. Four weeks after surgery I returned to practice ready to play.”
With the support of her husband, Peter, a piper with Boghall & Bathgate, the band became a driving force to return to full health as soon as possible.
“The thing that kept me going during my treatment was Peter coming home from practice and telling me how the band was going,” Fiona said. “I was so determined to get back amongst my band friends that I think it kept me focused on something. Being at band allows me to block out my emotions when they threaten to overwhelm me. The guys and girls in the band treat me no different to before although I know they all have my back when I need them.”
According to Boghall & Bathgate bass-section leader Stevie McQuillan, “Fiona is a truly talented tenor-drummer who has also been known to surprise us all with a tune on the chanter. Like all the Boghall family I am very fond of Fiona, or “Our Fee” as we affectionately call her. For me, Fee is a true inspiration and shows beyond all boundaries passion and determination unlike . . .